November has been renamed Wovember by friends, Kate Davies (Needled blog) and Felicity Ford (The Domestic Soundscape), to highlight and promote the use of wool. Kate was incensed when trying to buy wool clothing that manufacturers were labelling garments as wool, when they have less than 50% actual wool content, and in some cases no wool at all! Obviously this labelling is very misleading to consumers; but also it is a misuse of the kudos of wool, to use its woolly, natural and warm properties to sell their non-wool products. They have set up a website, and a petition to protest against this mislabelling, and throughout November have been promoting this issue, and have named and shamed some major retailers. There are lots of informative and interesting articles on the site: about Rare sheep breeds, farming sheep, and wool yarn production. I particularly enjoyed the interview with vintage knitwear expert, Susan Crawford (A Stitch in Time) about the development of her wool yarn Excellana.
I was chatting to my little felty friend Neeva about this, and she was quite affronted that retailers were misrepresenting wool with synthetic fibres, and she wanted to add her support to the campaign. So I met up with the Felty Folk by some sheep so I could photograph them showing their support for the Wovember campaign for the Wovember Gallery:
The Felty Folk are 100% wool with just a bit of magic thrown on top.
While I was taking the photo I kept hearing a scrunching noise, and thought I was hearing someone walking along a gravel path. Until this sheep came into the shot:
and I realised it was the noise of the sheep munching the stalks left from the vegetable crop:
It must be crunchy like celery!
I have an added difficulty with sheep and wool, because I’m vegetarian. I love animals, and love seeing them in our countryside, but ultimately I know they are going to be someone’s dinner, so I feel a little sad. I know that most of the wool from sheep on our farms is thrown away or burned, which seems an awful waste, and I think if you are going to make use of animals for food, you shouldn’t be wasteful with the life taken. Even with sheep especially bred and farmed for wool, I expect at some point they will be past their usefulness and slaughtered; this is something I should know more about. Having lived in rural communities for quite a while I am also aware of the extremely low price the farmers get for a sheep, and that fleece is destroyed because there is no market for it, and that the farming of animals shapes the way our countryside looks. In my ideal world, we would keep sheep, we would enjoy them and use their sustainable fibre – wool to clothe us, then when they die of natural causes we could eat them; but I probably wouldn’t want to eat them, even then, so I would be wasteful. It’s a tricky one.